As a child I enjoyed too many things to be able to pick one job to aspire towards as I came into adulthood. I leaned toward science and medicine because I knew I wanted to help people. I also grew up enjoying art, but I was afraid to pursue it as a career due to warnings about being a “starving artist”, but more importantly because I was afraid I would lose interest in the only thing that truly excited me. Then, in my junior year of college at UCSC while I was studying Biological Anthropology, I joined a Renaissance Faire Guild called Danse Macabre. I’d been going to faire since I was an infant, but that was my first real experience as a Rennie. Danse Macabre dons black outfits and skull masks, and then plays music and dances through the streets of faire to ward off death and to honor those who have passed. It was because of this group that I made my first mask. It took me weeks and a ton of paper mache. During the first week I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I remember thinking for the first time in my life that I’d found a career I would love. I wanted to be a mask maker. Then another week went by and the long, drawn out process, combined with the unsatisfactory responses I received about my final piece discouraged the dream and I swept it aside. Reminding myself again, that I should stick to science and finish my degree. I did just that, and then after I graduated I was supposed to go to USC for grad school. I spent all summer looking for a house where I’d feel safe living. A week before class started I still hadn’t found anything, and I was uneasy about jumping into an extremely expensive program. So, I stayed in Santa Cruz and looked for a job I’d enjoy. I ended up finding a job making bridal jewelry with Haute Bride in Los Gatos, CA. After one year I became the production manager. It was at that time that I started making more masks. This time I used leather, and I fell in love with them. I made some leather jewelry too, and within a few months I got accepted to be a vendor at the Valhalla Renaissance Faire in South Lake Tahoe, CA. I took about 100 bracelets, some necklaces, a few other odds and ends, and 27 masks. Every single mask sold, and I knew that was the way to go. I continued working for Haute Bride by day and building up my business at night. My first year I did a handful of local (6 hour drive max) shows. Luckily, my boss allowed me to take off Friday afternoon for the shows. I’d work my butt off all weekend, pack up Sunday night, and hightail it back home so I could be at work the next morning. For the next three years I continued to build my business and improve my craft, all while maintaining my 9-5, 1.5 hour/day commute job that I also loved. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep during that time, and ultimately I came to a breaking point. My business was paying for itself by that time, but not for my Bay Area rent. My only option was to relocate. So, I came back to the town I grew up in and dedicated all of my new free time to my business. A year later, my best friend joined me, and now we are traveling all over the US doing shows. I didn’t think I’d end up here, but I couldn’t be happier that I have. I’m no longer afraid of being a “starving artist”, or that I’ll get bored of my work. I also feel like I’m still able to help others by bringing excitement and joy to their lives. Its not exactly what I’d pictured, but its perfect for me. So thank you, to each and every person who has purchased one of my masks and allowed me to build a life full of creativity.
Christopher and Shannon fell in love at the Bristol Renaissance Faire and have been travelling the world together making masks and learning new techniques. He also makes custom torcs (metal Viking necklaces), builds permanent Renaissance Faire Booths, does home construction, is a Freemason, and the Laird of Dracmor.